Posted in adolescence, anxiety, Asperger's, autism, empathy, girls / women, sensory perception, social skills

The Party: A virtual experience of autism

I just came across this video presented by the UK newspaper The Guardian. It is from 2017, so perhaps you’ve seen it already. But I didn’t know about it! It’s a dramatization about how a 16-year-old girl named Layla, who is on the autism spectrum, experiences the sensory overload of a birthday party.

I think it’s pretty well done. While the video is playing, you can actually click and drag with your mouse pointer to change the direction of the camera. A narrator gives you Layla’s internal monologue as she tries to keep from melting down.

I empathize with Layla a lot in this situation, caught between wanting to hide away from everybody and wishing that she could participate like the people around her. I can’t recall ever literally experiencing the way the camera goes blurry when Layla starts to get overloaded, but I think that’s probably just a storytelling device meant to represent how it becomes impossible to function when you’re overloaded.

Who knows, though? Usually in a situation like this, I’m able to find a quiet corner to hide away in, so maybe it just hasn’t ever gotten that bad for me. Layla’s headphones are an important way for her to keep a buffer between herself and the noisy world, and I definitely identify with that.

All in all, a nice attempt to convey something that’s not easy to get across.

Posted in art, depression, doubt, empathy, obsessive thinking, video games

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

What would you get if you combined the Legend of Zelda with Mario Paint?

One of my favorite things about the Nintendo Switch console is how it has filled out its library with a wide array of games made by indie developers– games made not by major studios, but by newly founded companies or small groups of people (sometimes as few as one!) who had a creative idea and put in the years of hard work to bring it about. Several of these indie games, I consider to be every bit as good as the big studio releases– you just need to go looking for them sometimes.

I first learned about Chicory because of its soundtrack, which was composed by Lena Raine, who also did the soundtrack for another amazing indie game, Celeste. I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack on YouTube while I worked and decided to give the game itself a try. I was thrilled to discover that the game is worthy of its excellent music.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale (released by Finji in 2021 for the Switch, Playstation, PC, and Mac) is a game about art and creativity, and it does something really impressive– it allows the player, no matter who they are, to step into the role of an artist and to see the world from an artist’s point of view.

  • It gives the player a taste of the joy and excitement that comes from being recognized as an artist, while also allowing them to feel a hint of the weight of demands and expectations that it brings.
  • It has a very good, compassionate portrayal of depression and how to help someone struggling with it.
  • It quietly demonstrates that creativity can be expressed in many ways and encourages the player to try new things.
  • It even ponders things like culture and tradition and how they can affect the value people place on art.
  • And it does all of this while remaining a genuinely charming, engaging, and fun game to play.

Be aware that this review is going to include spoilers for Chicory: A Colorful Tale. It’s worth experiencing for yourself if you’re interested in playing it. Otherwise, click below to continue reading.

Continue reading “Chicory: A Colorful Tale”

If you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent, and look upon whom he has pierced and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, than when he drew it forth.

Benjamin Grosvenor, “Grace to the Chief of Sinners,” 1845

What Jesus might say to the Roman soldiers who crucified him

Posted in Asperger's, autism, computers, employment, lists, obsessive thinking

Sub-sub-sub tasks

As I get older, I think that some things about having Asperger’s syndrome get easier to deal with, while other things get more difficult, and still others remain the same. This post is about a skill in one of the latter two categories.

Executive function is a term I wrote about years ago on this blog, a sort of mental flexibility that I seem to be particularly bad at. It’s the ability to organize multiple tasks according to priority, to keep a mental list in the back of the mind while you get to work on the first task.

That doesn’t tend to take place in my brain, at least not the way it’s supposed to. Instead, I tend to get bogged down almost as soon as I begin. Let me give you an example from a couple of months ago.

Continue reading “Sub-sub-sub tasks”

I’d like to start blogging again. Also, I’m trying out a new page style that allows for a lot of short posts to see if it helps with my industrial-sized writer’s block!

Posted in fantasy, video games

Furret’s Grand Vacation

Every once in a while, something comes along with no apparent goal beyond making people smile, and in times of trial, that can be a blessing. I’m not sure if I will be able to explain what about this simple YouTube series has warmed my heart, especially if you’re not familiar with YouTube videos or what a Furret even is, but I’ll give it a try!

Most people have at least heard of Nintendo’s Pokemon games, which is where Furret originates from. As its name suggests, Furret is a long, skinny Pokemon based on a ferret.

Internet memes being as unpredictable as they are, about two years ago, it became a trend to post YouTube videos that were just Furret’s walking animation set to a specific track of music from the games. You could find endless slight variations on that theme– Furret walking for ten hours straight, Furret walking on a treadmill, Furret walking around the world.

As the popularity of Furret videos grew, a YouTube poster named Anoyth started a series of joke videos where Furret would perform the requests of YouTube commenters, usually in segments lasting only a few seconds. For instance, one commenter suggested “Furret finds an Infinity Stone, and does what comes naturally to him.” In response, we get a three-second video showing Furret walking past a purple stone without stopping. Because that’s the joke: Furret walks.

Enter a new YouTube poster, FloppyFish. At this point, Anoyth had made nine “Furret does what the comments tell him to” videos and was ready to call it quits. But there was no shortage of comments left over from fans. So FloppyFish took over the reins of the series, starting with installment #10.

Whereas the earlier videos had been under a minute long, FloppyFish‘s installments were in the 10-15 minute range, taking a lot more requests and gradually becoming more elaborate, while always keeping the cobbled-together, cut-and-paste design that gave the series its playful charm.

The world of Furret gradually began to fill out with a cast of other Pokemon friends (each with its own corresponding theme music), and a nemesis, which logic dictates must be a backwards, upside-down, photonegative copy of Furret named Terruf. It’s all very reminiscent of the make-believe games that my brothers and I used to play when we were little, when we’d tell stories about characters that might have originated from books or cartoon shows, but only served as a jumping-off point for totally unrelated adventures.

As with our own make-believe adventures, Furret becomes sort of a spokesman for FloppyFish, making a major announcement at the end of installment #13 of the series: He wants a break from doing the comments, so he’s going on vacation. The other Pokemon eagerly volunteer to take over the comments videos for him while he’s gone.

And so each one of the others gets a video, featuring hijinks like snowball fights, accidentally breaking Furret’s TV set, prank calling Furret, and planning a welcome home party for him.

My reaction to all of this was “Aww, that’s cute.” I could tell that a lot of work was going into these videos. I’ve put together a couple of YouTube videos myself, and I know that even something that looks very amateurish takes a lot of time and effort to make if you care about the result. I wasn’t expecting something overly ambitious. That’s why I was blown away when I saw this trailer:

That’s right, a six-part series about one Pokemon’s journey from coast to coast to see America’s great sights. There has to be close to an hour of material there– I can’t imagine how long this took to put together. There’s a lot of attention to detail– we get to see all of the events that took place during the guest Pokemon videos from Furret’s point of view this time.

I think what impresses me the most about it is how consistent it has been so far in its earnestness. It’s not trying to be more than it purports to be– just a wholesome, amusing story about a cute weasel-like mammal appreciating the natural beauty of the great outdoors. Yes, it’s quite silly, but it’s also strangely relaxing and calming to see him hike the Grand Tetons. And there’s a thrilling subplot about Terruf trying to ruin his vacation with a satellite-mounted laser.

I know this is a weird thing to post about, but I thought it was worth highlighting. If it makes you smile, consider letting FloppyFish know in a comment.

Posted in anxiety, God's will, lists, obsessive thinking, school, writing

The writing process

I have had an adversarial relationship with writing for almost my entire life. Writing is stressful, it’s slow. At best it’s annoying; at worst, it’s agony. You’d think I’d just avoid doing it, which is what I do most of the time. But I keep getting pulled back to it, because sometimes I have things I want to say. Even then, it’s painful getting the words out.

I think I may have approached it wrong from the beginning. When I studied English in elementary school, I approached grammar and spelling in pretty much the same way I approached math. There was a right answer, and there were wrong answers. Sentences had a logic much like equations– they could even be diagrammed. It was a matter of knowing the rules and applying them correctly, and that was how my Aspie brain operated.

But then we began studying something called the “writing process,” which was to be used for writing essays. You began with an outline, then wrote a rough draft, which you would check for errors and rewrite– maybe even twice. My English book gave an example of a paper at each stage, showing a rough draft full of proofreading marks scrawled in red ink to mark the mistakes.

This totally confused me! The rough draft was full of obvious mistakes, where the writer had ignored the rules taught earlier in the same textbook, that we’d just spent months learning. For instance, one of the sentences began with a lowercase letter, and another used the word “their” when it should have used “there.” Why didn’t they just write it correctly the first time?

But our teacher wanted us to write a rough draft and then proofread it. I ended up having to purposely make mistakes in order to have something to correct! I didn’t like doing it, and it confused me, because it seemed like an unnecessary extra step.

This didn’t cause me any problems until several years later, in high school, when writing assignments became more demanding. I think I had always tried to have the ideas I wanted to write planned out in my mind completely before I began writing. That usually worked if I only needed to write one or two paragraphs, but many the papers I had to write in high school were several pages long. I found myself stretched closer and closer to my limits, staring at a blank screen for hours until the words finally came pouring out, usually after midnight on the night before the paper was due.

I tried to adjust and make use of outlines to give me something to start with, but without knowing where I was going, I would begin a sentence only to erase it over and over as I realized it didn’t quite say what I wanted it to. Even when the paper was finished, I usually felt very negative about what I had written. I wanted it out of my sight, because reading it would only make me think of how it fell short of what I meant to say– like it was forced out of me.

I wondered if this was because I had never properly learned to write a rough draft full of mistakes to fix later. I wouldn’t allow myself to make mistakes because I hated seeing them on the page. My stressed writing process fed on itself, as guilt over not starting earlier served as added incentive to avoid writing until the deadline forced the issue. No way was I going to subject myself to that agony for longer than I needed to by writing the whole paper more than once!

Unexpectedly, though, I usually got good grades on those papers that I had felt so negatively about. My teachers in high school and in college commented that my writing style was friendly and clear, even when I was writing about complex topics, and they encouraged me to keep writing. One of my professors at Cedarville who knew that I was struggling with determining God’s will for my life wrote a very kind comment on one of my papers saying that he thought surely God must have something in mind to do with my writing ability because of how well I expressed myself.

I’m really not trying to brag when I say this– as a matter of fact, in some ways that was the last thing I wanted to hear! I ended up not pursuing a graduate degree in either of my majors– Bible or physics– because I knew that both would be very writing-centered, and I felt totally burned out with writing by the time I finished at Cedarville.

But there still is a part of me that *wants* to write, that seeks to connect with others by sharing the things I care about and that I’m interested in. It was really a struggle to write my previous post here, but a couple of things allowed me to get through it.

The first thing was structure. I came up with the idea of using parallel structure to try to answer the same list of questions for each 5-year period of my life. I wrote as many sentence prompts as I could think of:

— I cared about…
— I was obsessed with…
— What mattered to me was…
— I wanted…
— I worried…
— I feared…
— I missed…
— I regretted…
— People told me that…
— I thought that…
— I learned…
— I didn’t understand…
— The biggest change was…
— I thought that God was…

Then I pared down the list, trying to get rid of ideas that were redundant or that I couldn’t think of interesting answers for. As I began to write the first few sections of the post, I sometimes went back and added or removed prompts or changed their order. In the end, I went with seven sentence prompts, and the result was sort of a weird free-verse poem.

Without that sort of structure, I don’t think I would have been able to decide what to focus on. It’s why a lot of my posts here use a list format.

The second thing that allowed me to get anything written was Megan’s input and encouragement. I got stuck a lot of times, and I could feel that suffocating feeling of not being able to write another word without it all sounding wrong. But when that happened, I would send my incomplete draft to Megan, and she always had something positive and insightful to say about it.

For Megan, writing is not a dread– in fact, she often uses writing to calm down and relax. Take a look at how she describes her writing process:

“It’s like sensing an approaching wind. You feel it, ready your wings, and catch the current. And so you sail, watching the world pass below like a wandering stream. It’s from this vantage that my soul observes, experiences, and seeks to put to expression.”

Whoa– I can’t imagine that! It sure sounds nice. I’ve been getting hints lately that maybe I should try writing more again. I was just going through my old school papers, and I read some of those encouraging notes written by my teachers in high school and college. And I can’t help but see a world full of people around me who are struggling with all sorts of things– things that I surely can’t solve. But God can, and maybe reading about someone else who is depending on God will be an encouragement to them.

Anyway, one of the things I put on my birthday list was a small book of writing prompts, and Megan got it for me. Let’s see if it helps.

Posted in adolescence, anxiety, Asperger's, career, childhood, Christian school, church, computers, depression, doubt, employment, friends, girlfriend, God, God's will, lists, music, obsessive thinking, rules, school, social skills, special interests, the Bible, video games, writing

When I was 5

When I was 5, I was…

a thinker and explorer, studying everything around me from blue eyes beneath a blonde bowl cut.

My world was made of… corduroys and crayons, Transformers and Duplo blocks, days that stretched out beyond what I could see.

I liked… traffic lights and street signs, trips to the library to check out new books, walks in the woods with Daddy to see if there were any snakes hiding under the old board someone had left there.

I hated… bug bites, earaches, and early bedtimes.

I feared… loud shouting on the TV, distorted music from a broken tape, the unexpected disruption to a neat pattern.

Happiness for me was… my shelf of books at my back, maps and drawings unfolded on the soft carpet before me, with room to spread across the infinite floor. Everything had its place.

I thought that… everyone wanted to hear me share what I had learned. They always seemed so impressed.

I learned… the names of the countries, the planets, and the stars around me. The counting of days, months, and years, and the God who made them all.

When I was 10, I was…

small for my age, the kid skipping down the sidewalk with tortoise-shell glasses and a sheepish grin on his face.

My world was made of… pencils and erasers, rulers and dictionaries lined up carefully inside my desk, textbooks wrapped in brown paper and tape that I’d read on the long bus rides home from school.

I liked… pedaling around the driveway on my bike, exploring the yard with my brothers, then running inside to draw pictures of the adventures we imagined.

I hated… when the kids around me at church or at school talked about things that were disgusting or mean.

I feared… not knowing the right thing to do, being caught in a situation where everybody but me knew the rules.

Happiness for me was… soaring over the playground at recess on the swingset.

I thought that… if the teacher had to scold the class for any reason, it meant that I must have done something wrong.

I learned… that the way to make a friend was to be a friend.

When I was 15, I was…

Continue reading “When I was 5”